Bell Mountain

Post a narrative about your trip on the Ozark Trail

Bell Mountain

Postby John » Fri Apr 27, 2007 8:19 pm

On Friday April 27th I visited the Bell Mountain Wilderness with Cheryl W. (a wonderful reporter from the Associated Press who did a nice write-up of the OT last fall). The weather was fantastic and we had the entire Wilderness to ourselves.

We met at the Highway A trailhead, left my truck, then drove Cheryl's truck over to the northern Bell Mountain trailhead just a few minutes away. Sure, we could have gone the other way, but it's a lot easier trekking down 900' from the peak of Bell than heading up! This trip is about eight miles in length.

I'm happy to report that the corridor is wide open. A crew hired by the U.S. Forest Service took cross-cut saws and axes to this trail a week or two ago and they did a great job. I believe the trail also got some Adopt-A-Trail work last weekend from an equestrian crew. Kudos all-around. Since it rained this week there were a few sloppy spots, but overall the trail is in nice shape.

On to the trip. Much of the first six miles is relatively flat as the trail follows the big arc that defines Bell Mountain. We hiked beneath trees that were trying desperately to push out new buds from beneath dead leaf sprouts that were wiped out in an early-April freeze. It seemed more like March than April, and there was more brown than green. But here and there we saw new growth, but we also saw a lot of snags, dead or dying black/red/scarlet oaks that have succumbed to oak borers. We also found a lot of deadfall from ice- and wind-storms that hit this area in 2006.

A second-wave of spring wildflowers dotted our path. We saw birds-foot violets, rose verbena, fire pink, blue phlox, yellow star grass, wild hyacinth, miami mist, wild geraniums and a few more that escape my memory.

As we approached the peak of Bell a fence lizard crossed my path and a red-tailed hawk flew overhead. We looked west and spotted the watertowers in Viburnum, a dozen or so miles away. I think I saw Sullivan Hill, which is further away near Dillards Mill. The trail then crossed a xeric glade and we wandered off-trail to the eastern face of Bell that takes in a great view of the St. Francios Mountains-- including a surreal view of the collapsed Taum Sauk reservoir.

As we headed to the southern reaches of Bell Mountain I remembered my first trip here, some ten years ago, when portions of the trail were choked with poison ivy and brush. I turned to Cheryl and said, "This used to be horrible! We could barely pass through here! Isn't it wonderful now?" Cheryl nodded, but I could tell this opened-trail didn't share the same meaning to her as it did to me. She expects trails to be clear, and so she should. I was deeply moved by the effort it took for so many volunteers to re-open the trail (thanks again, to EVERYONE who adopts trail).

The glades and overlooks at the top of Bell are fantastic, but the trail really starts to get interesting once you hit the intersection with the Ozark Trail. The last two miles down to Highway A are filled with glades, beautiful vistas and excellent rock.

At about the seven-mile mark we stopped for lunch where a spring-fed brook crosses the trail in a small glade overlooking the Ottery Creek valley. This is my favorite spot on Bell. Because of recent rains the brook was overflowing and I saw a wonderful sight:

Image

Strings of eggs! Black pearls floating in the shallow waters that streamed across ages-old rhyolite. I wasn't sure if it was frog or salamander eggs, and after I got home I did a web search and I'm pretty sure it was TOAD eggs! Bufo americanus. Here is a close-up:

Image

I've read that the eggs hatch within two weeks of being laid, so if you visit the area soon you might see some tadpoles. Take some pictures if you do.

Our trip ended too soon, so we made a short visit over to Ottery Creek, which was flowing with force. We then shuttled over to the northern trailhead and met some turkey hunters from Louisiana. After a warm hug, Cheryl headed to St. Louis and I went to the farm.

It was a good day to be outdoors.
John
 
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Postby Kathie » Sat Apr 28, 2007 11:42 pm

Wonder if the turkey hunters you ran into were the ones we meet at Greer's Ferry last weekend......Jack and Bill possibly? Sounds as if you had a great hike and wonderful views of the area. You know, I think any of us that have built trail when it starts out as little or nothing appreciate what is completed at the end of the day as we walk out. Kinda like a runner's high at the end of a race!
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Postby ChrisS » Mon Apr 30, 2007 7:04 am

Sounds like a great trip! It's such a perfect time to be out, too bad it is soon yeilding to ticks and humidity.
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Postby Steve C » Sat May 19, 2007 7:20 pm

Well, today I decided to get out and enjoy the outdoors and head from St. Louis down to Bell Mountain. Kind of a spontaneous thing. It was such a beautiful day yesterday and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of hiking in this glorious weather. So today, off I went – by myself – to get a little alone time.

I parked at the east trailhead to Bell Mountain and headed in from there. I chose this route because it’s a fairly easy hike to the top with flat to gently sloping grades. The trail is in great shape and as John posted earlier, we can thank the hired crews brought in by the US Forest Service and some adopt-a-trail volunteer work by an equestrian crew.

The spring wildflowers appear to be waning now; I saw a few but not many. However, I did get a chorus of songbird tunes. I wish I could have identified them to know what I was listening to but the songs were beautiful anyway.

The hike was going splendidly, beautifully, perfectly. The breezes were pleasant, the air was dry and clean. I was looking forward to getting to the top, sitting down, eating my apple and taking in the beautiful views of the valleys below.

Then I met Miss Piggy.

So much for alone time. About 3/4 mile from the top, where the trail starts to climb the main summit, I startled a young piglet from its hiding place. This startled piglet number two and then piglet number three. Three little piggies about 20-25 yards just ahead of me and to my left. They scampered through the woods and then I heard a much bigger ruckus in the leaves – mommy pig.

There she was, all dressed in black (or perhaps a dark brown), about 25 yards directly to my left, slightly downslope of me, and walking parallel to the trail. I think she must have been pretty upset (at least I interpreted the grunts and snorts that way). I stopped and watched her walk ahead a few yards and then she broke into a light trot to catch up to the piglets and got ahead of me by about 30 yards and appeared to stop somewhere near or on the trail – between me and the summit. I’m 3/4 of a mile from the summit and I’m facing four wild pigs with nothing but a hiking stick, an apple and some water. I stood still for a couple of minutes to see what she would do. I could still see some movement up ahead and some rustling of leaves but it didn’t appear to be far from the trail. I moved forward a little, making a few loud yells, but she appeared to stay in the same general area up ahead.

After about five minutes or so, I decided that maybe the summit of Bell wasn’t in the cards for me today. I wasn’t sure how best to handle an encounter with a wild pig, especially a mommy with three youngsters, so I backed away. Maybe I wasn’t in that much danger, but I wasn’t sure. A very large snorting pig will make you think I guess.

I know that the reports of feral pigs on Bell abound. I’ve heard some of them. But this was my first sighting. How about the rest of you? Have you ever encountered a wild pig on the trail? If so, what did you do?

I don’t consider the day a failure because I didn’t get to the top. It was still a beautiful day to be out in Missouri’s Ozarks!
Steve C
 
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Postby Coldspring » Sat May 19, 2007 7:50 pm

Do they allow hog hunting on Bell Mountain? I've been in the mood to do some bowhunting, and I find deer boring and too common.
Coldspring
 

Postby Steve C » Sat May 19, 2007 8:00 pm

Coldspring wrote:Do they allow hog hunting on Bell Mountain? I've been in the mood to do some bowhunting, and I find deer boring and too common.


This is from the Conservation Department's website:
In Missouri, feral hogs may be taken in any number throughout the year. During most of the year, no permit is required and any method (including baiting and the use of dogs) is allowed. However, special restrictions apply during the fall firearms deer and turkey seasons. Refer to the current Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations for specific information.

The Conservation Department asks that all hunters who encounter a feral hog shoot it on sight. Doing so will reduce the feral hog population and keep the spread of this destructive pest in check.


My understanding is that the Forest Service follows this same principle.
Steve C
 
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Postby Lightweight Bob » Sat May 19, 2007 8:58 pm

Steve C wrote:
I know that the reports of feral pigs on Bell abound. I’ve heard some of them. But this was my first sighting. How about the rest of you? Have you ever encountered a wild pig on the trail? If so, what did you do?



A few times camping on the edge of that glade, I've heard this grunting noise (like a person blowing his nose too hard) beyond my campfire. Never saw what was making the noise (also, never wanted to see). I thought it was a deer at the time, but then met another hiker, on a different occasion, who was carrying a pistol, talking about how feral hogs can be very agressive. He had never seen a hog at Bell Mountain, though. With your report, I think I'll definitely be bringing a pistol the next time I venture out to Bell Mountain.

It also sounds like bad news that they are multiplying.
Hike slow, hike far...
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Postby Lightweight Bob » Sat May 19, 2007 9:02 pm

Steve, How large was the pig? Are we talking golden retreiver size? larger? smaller?
Hike slow, hike far...
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Postby Steve C » Sat May 19, 2007 9:10 pm

Lightweight Soloist wrote:Steve, How large was the pig? Are we talking golden retreiver size? larger? smaller?


The mama pig was larger than golden retriever size. I'd estimate st. bernhard size (in height) with a little more meat (maybe a couple hundred pounds?)

I'd guess the piglets about the size of a medium sized dog (about 50 lbs).

I'll qualify these estimates with the disclaimer that I'm not good at estimating weights. All I know is it was bigger than anything I wanted to mess with! :shock:
Steve C
 
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Postby Lightweight Bob » Sat May 19, 2007 10:57 pm

:shock: :shock: That's a heck of an animal!
Hike slow, hike far...
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Postby Jim » Mon May 21, 2007 7:03 am

Good move backing away. Those pigs, especially with piglets can be very aggressive. I have never encountered them in the wild, if I do...you can bet I would make new trail out of there as soon as I have emptied that new can of bear spray.... :shock:

MDC has the open season to take all of em out. They are not native and do allot of distruction.
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Postby laforbes » Mon May 21, 2007 1:11 pm

I'll remember this when I take my horse on that section. I'm sure our horses will freak out if we encounter not only one, but four! That will be a day to wear helmets, for sure.

Linda F
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